Ireland’s embassy to the Vatican was closed to satisfy “Godless men” in the Labour Party, a rebelFianna Fáil councillor claimed last night.
Kenneth O’Flynn, who lost the party whip earlier this year, sparked a furious reaction when he made the comments during a debate at a Cork City Council meeting on a motion from Cllr Sean Martin (FF) calling on the government to rescind the decision.
“It was a political decision to close the embassy, and not an economic one. It was taken to satisfy Godless men in the Labour Party,” Cllr O’Flynn said.
Cllr Michael O’Connell (Lab) reacted furiously and called on Cllr O’Flynn to withdraw the remarks.
“I am disgusted with the comments. It’s absolutely deplorable,” said Cllr O’Connell .
“It is one of the lowest blows anyone could throw. I am a practising Catholic and proud of it. He has insulted me personally and a lot of people in this city.”
Mr O’Connell said that the decision to close the embassy was based on economic reasons because of the State’s dire financial situation. And he pointed out that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had already given a commitment that the decision would be reviewed when the economic circumstances allowed.
His party colleague, Cllr Michael Ahern, said he supported Mr Martin’s motion.
The decision to close the embassy was insensitive, and ignored the historic links and strong connections between the Irish, the Church and the Vatican, he said.
However, Cllr Mick Finn (Ind) said it was a symbolic closure. “Until the Vatican has a proper response to the various Church scandals, the doors should remain firmly shut,” he said.
After a lengthy debate, councillors agreed the motion after Mr Martin agreed to change the word “rescind”, to instead call on the Government to “review” its decision to close the embassy.
Meanwhile, Lord Mayor Terry Shannon has confirmed he has written to Pope Benedict inviting him to visit Cork if he attends the Eucharistic Congress in Ireland in June.
“I haven’t had a response yet but I will update council as soon as I do,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved